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Interview: Sparzanza

mit Calle Johannesson vom 15. Februar 2013 via Phone
Werden in Zukunft die Live-Musiker durch irgendwelche Laptops ersetzt, die wohlplatziert auf einer Bühne stur vor sich hinsurrend das in ihnen vorprogrammierte Set des Besitzers durch unzählige Transistoren und Kupferkabel herunterdudeln? Ist es ein dystopischer Gedanke, dass sich Band bei der aktuellen finanziellen Entwicklung dazu gezwungen sehen werden, eine Kamera bei sich im Probenraum aufzustellen und dann nur noch per Live-Übertragung quer durch die Welt zu "touren"? Kann es überhaupt zu so einer Entwicklung kommen, oder ist Live-Musik in diesem Genre doch etwas, was weder die Wirtschaft, noch die Faulheit mancher Musiker zerstören kann?
Calle Johannesson, Gitarrist der schwedischen Band Sparzanza, glaubt, dass auch in Zukunft ein Bedarf an Live-Bands bestehen wird. Vielleicht wird die Bühnenpräsenz irgendwie modifiziert, aber seien wir mal ehrlich, so eine Laptop- oder Monitor-Show wäre ätzend langweilig. Wo bleibe dann das besondere Feeling eines organischen Konzertes?
Auch berichtet uns Calle von den diesjährigen Touraktivitäten, dem aktuellen Album Life is certain, Death is not ... und auch von seiner Meinung zu der Bedeutung von Musik in unserer heutigen Zeit.
Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

The Interview:

Alex: Hi Calle! How are you doing?
Calle: Hi Alex, I'm doing great.
Alex: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and describe your role in the band?
Calle: Ye, my name is Calle Johannesson and I'm one of the guitar players. That's what I'm do, I play the guitar. (laughs)
Alex: What can you tell us about the bands history? What are the main stations?
Calle: We've been doing this for quite some time now, since actually 1996. But it started to get a little more serious in 2000, somewhere about that. Then we released our first album. Now we just released our sixth album called "Death is certain, life is not ...". So, we've been doing this for a while, but it's so much fun, that we can't stop doing it, I think.
Alex: What would you say makes a band professional? Is it the fact, that the members can live from their music, or is it all about the skills to play their instruments?
Calle: Well, I think the music business is quite hard today ... it's hard to earn money, since you don't sell any records anymore and you have to be touring all the time. I think it shouldn't be about the money, but if you want to do it full-time, you have to be quite stabbing I think, and just believe in what you do and just go on with it. I don't mess our success from the money we get with the band. Then I would have quit long time ago. (laughs)
For me personally it's all about the music, because I love creating music and I also love playing music in front of an audience. You know? That's what I can say.
Alex: It's quite hard to get the talented young musicians out there, because they need money to built up their crowd, but they haven't got any money ... so, what can they do?
Calle: You have to get money for eat and for rent - for the living of course. I mean, maybe you ahve to combine them! Take a job or study something. I think it's good to have something the side of the music if it doesn't work. But maybe they can take a job, that is easy to get away from sometimes. If you have a good boss, that knows that you play in a band and you need to be away for the weekends and sometimes touring for a couple of weeks. All in all try to get a job, that works to get vacation often from. That's a good start, because I think, just to be in the music business and earn money from day one is very hard. So you should have something on the side.
Alex: Can you personally live from your music?
Calle: Not yet, we can't. We have jobs on the side, but I don't work full-time. I work when I need some money and we're not touring. That's how it is, but it works. (laughs)
Alex: You will play some German show dates soon. What are your expectations for this gigs?
Calle: Actually We've been in Germany for a couple of times, but it was a couple of years ago. I really like Germany and the crowd is often really good. Also I like your sausages and your beer, too! You're good in that. So I'm really looking forward to this gigs in Germany. It will be really good to come back. I hope you don't have it so cold, this gigs will be in March. Maybe, I don't know ... we'll see!
Alex: Generally, how do you prepare for such an exhausting tour?
Calle: Well you know, eat a lot of vegetables ... (lauchs)
No, most of the practical stuff we rehearse the songs and in what order, just getting a good show running with the lights and so on. It's not only about the music, we try to do the visual stuff good, too. All the other practical stuff is run by our booking agency. So you just show up today at the buses ... yeah, it's really just like rehearsing and then jump on the bus and go. That's mainly the focus to rehears the songs and try to get the lightning and the sound engineer to know what we want to do during the shows. That's it ... and maybe some vegetables! (laughs)
Alex: Do you actually notice a difference between the crowds of different countries?
Calle: Yeah, definitely you do! We've been to Finland very much and that's really big different from Sweden, Denmark or Norway. It's also about the day! If you play on a Friday, of course people might bit a little bit more happy. But yeah, it's a great difference. How they sing along or how much they cheer. You Germans seem to like live music and that's a good thing.
Alex: Have there been any disturbing experiences? Maybe fans, that went to far?
Calle: No, I can't think of anything right now ... well throwing some panties on stage maybe. That can be a little bit disturbing. You don't get so concentrated on music then. Maybe that ...
Alex: Do you know Dead by April?
Calle: I know the band. We have played with them on a boat or something, I think. I don't know them personally, but I know who they are.
Alex: One of the guys told us, that when he is on stage there is a lot of grabbing into the nuts. What do you think about this kind of fans?
Calle: (laughs)
Well, if you don't want it, don't stand so close to them. Is that the one, that creams a lot? Maybe he needs that to hit the high notes or high pitches ... I don't know! (laughs)
Alex: Let's talk about your latest album "Death is certain, life is not ...". It has been released in 2012, what can you tell us about it?
Calle: I'm really proud of this album! I think we really worked hard this time in the studio. Yo know? Gave it all with the live strings, we hired. A live strings musician came in, we had a choir that cam in and sing.
We started the work quite early and we had like twenty songs, that we choosed from. So we took it down and I think we managed to get a good album with the production - good songs. And I like it, because it's a bit darker. We've always been a bit darker, Gothic or like ever you want to call that. And I like that kind of thing! So I'm really proud of this album.
Alex: When do you know, that a certain is is really finished?
Calle: That's always a problem to like less is more. But with this one we've tried to a more live sound actually, then the previous one. The drums sound really like they would sound live. So we tried to be "less is more" on this album sometimes. But when we discuss this, it's like what doe's this song need, we see that some songs maybe need choirs or strings or something other on it, because it will be really good. But this is a hard question. In the end it's all about Base, drums, two guitars and the singing and we try to keep it that, if the song don't need anymore. But the last song, "When Death Come", just needs strings, because it's perfect for it. So we decided to put that on.
Alex: Can you tell us more about the production process of this album? Did you use a studio, or did you work it out at home?
Calle: No, actually we were in a studio, where we've recorded our latest five albums. And it#s with our Producer [...]. We worked with him on this latest five albums. He is almost like the sixth member of the band. Yeah, you can say that ... and he knows what we want and its# really easy to work with him. It's very nice to work in his well-known studio, with this big mixing board in it. So we where there. That's quite good, because it's also just 40 minutes drive from my home.
Alex: In general, how important are the reactions of the fans and the press for you personally?
Calle: I think it's always nice if the press likes the album of course. And it can be easier, if you get a ten out of ten, then people will check it out, but if you get five out of ten, it's just like, you know, maybe the don't check it out. So of course it's nice to get good reviews but for me it's more important to see, what the fans on Facebook write. I mean, if they really like it, that's nice. But as I've said, if you get the max or the newspapers to get a bit higher, it's of course easier to reach more people. So it's always nice to get good reviews. Or a really bad one! One out of ten or so ... then people maybe will give it a listen. In the middle is not good.
Alex: Have you ever been confronted with criticism, that you liked to well, that you immediately thought about putting it in to practice?
Calle: You mean if someone has said something, that this sucks and I want to go home and practice? No, I don't think so! (laughs)
Well nothing from the fans, that I could remember. But actually from our producer! He is ver straight. But that's good, because he is like the last person to go through it. And he can really say to us: "This sucks! You have to rewrite that part!" I think we develop all the as a songwriter and all in all you get better skills on your instruments or ... I mean, we don't play like Dream Theater music. So we're perfectly good, for what we're doing. That's enough and also it's all about to get a good show and to have the right energy, I think. That's the main focus.
Alex: How much of his own influence can a producer bring in into an album?
Calle: Of course he can come with a lot of suggestions. But it depends on where the band wants to go, how free the producer can be and he of course can do a lot if he wants and if the band wants. But we discussed this all the time like: "Okay, how do we want to do the next record?" But you never know the results anyway. But yeah, the producer can do a lot, definitely.
Alex: Does your music really come from your heart and are you doing this whole music thing for yourself or do you try to feed the fans with a certain output?
Calle: A good song is a good song, if you know what I mean? So we try to write good songs, you know, that you can take your acoustic guitar and sing it. And often our songs you can do that with. So I think the most important is a good song from the start. And then we take the loud guitars, this screaming guitars and loud bass and put our drums on it. I think that's the most import actually ... a good song.
We do what we want or what we feel. I mean, we're five guys and it comes definitely right from the heart.
Alex: Do you want to transport a certain message, or different ones in different songs, with your music?
Calle: Not really! We try to have a bit of a theme with this one. About death, as the title says. But it's not like we want our fans to kill themselves or something like that. It's just a good theme to write about, because I think a lot of people think about death from time to time. And everyone can reflect on it. It's a fascinating theme. But as I've said, we're not like depressed or anything. The lyrics can be dark, but we're not dark guys. If you meet us, you will know. We like to take a beer and to party!
Alex: So, what do you personally think about death, afterlife and all this stuff?
Calle: I think that definitely something happens, when you die. I don't know why or what, because I don't believe in god or in a specific god or something like that. But I believe that something is going to happen with your soul. Nevertheless I'm not into any religion or something like that. So I don't really know ...
Alex: How much of a deal is music in your every day life? Is it just a job or something more?
Calle: No, I think it's something more. Actually I have a home studio and I try to be there as often as possible to write songs or to practice on my guitar. Music is a big deal for me. Still, if we don't earn some money, it's the best job or hobby, you can have, because music is giving so much back to you when you can be creative. For me it's a 24/7 going on project. What to do next or not and so on ... At least in my head! (laughs)
Alex: A lot of great musicians, like Francis Rossi or Stu Cook tend to say, that the music is today as not as important, like it was in the seventies or eighties. Would you agree on that?
Calle: It depends on how you look at it. I think people listen to more music now, then they ever have done, because it's so easy. You can have it on your I Phone or ...
Alex: ... but isn't that like "fast food music"? You listen to it once and then you throw it away.
Calle: Yeah, it can be. The thing is, you listen to music an other way, then it was back then. When I was growing up, I could buy the vinyls, you know? You bought a vinyl if you were lucky once every month or so. The you got home and listened to the record like hundred times. And even the bad songs became good. That's the thing. Today it's like: "Oh, that was a good song! And that was a good song, and that was a good song! But how's the band called? I don't know, it's just a good song!"
So it's different and I think it makes it harder for bands to reach out. And of course everything happens much faster today. The music business is harder for bands. I can't see, that there will be any of this big bands like Led Zeppelin, U2 or Iron Maiden, AC/DC and all of this bands. I'm not sure, but I think their era is over. So it's different, but I wouldn't say it's much badder now, because I think, as long as people will listen to music, it's all good. Music gets your feelings and emotions to flow and that's a good thing .. but yeah, maybe a bit more fast food. You're right with that one.
Alex: And where would you see this whole rock genre in let's say 20 years?
Calle: It think it will continue and always be there. For an example: We have the festivals here, this really big festivals in Sweden and they are sold out every year and have done it for twenty years. And you can see all the other festivals! They are like coming up and closing, coming up and closing ... and this big rock festivals are still going on. I think the rock music will always be there, maybe in a more modern way, but I still put on Led Zeppelin today and I think the songs are good. That's also a thing: If you write a good song, it will last for a much longer time. So, definitely the rock genre will be here.
You can see about the new bands, that are coming. I listened to a couple of them, they are always trying to develop their stuff. Sometimes they sound like they are playing two songs at once! (laughs)
But let's see! I believe, that the guitar, bass and drums will still be there somewhere in the middle, but we will see new influences. Some more synthesizers or what ever you want to add to the music. But on the other hand, look at Maiden, they are still doing their style ...
Alex: We've talked with the singer of the German band Axxis and he told us, that in the future it might be cheaper to put a laptop in the rehearsal room, film the band and to show them playing on a big screen in the venues. What do you think about that?
Calle: I think it would suck to go to that concert! (laughs)
Actually I think it can't be applicable. I mean, you can never take away the live show, being in front of a band and playing as a band. I wouldn't see that as live music at all ... but it's maybe another way to get the music out there and to get your fans, if they want to see you in the rehearsal room, too.
I'm not a fan of this idea! Maybe as a one timer or some thin special, you can do that? At least I would prefer the live shows. Maybe there is some type of genre, where this concept would fit, but not in rock or metal music. But I'm hard to see us playing like that. (laughs)
Alex: What's the reason you started with music? Has there been any key moment in your live?
Calle: Why did I start with music? All my live, I think, I have liked listen to music and have been interested in it. So it's just like it cam crawling all the time and suddenly I just picked up the guitar and were stabbing enough to learn by myself. No, I can't say like: Oh, I listened to that record and decided to become a musician. It just came crawling and then I started rehearsing and playing in different bands. That's how it has always been for me.
Alex: Has there been any point in your career, where you thought about giving up this whole music thing?
Calle: No, not for really giving it up. But sometimes you can ... you know, like break in a new market, like going to England for the first time, it's like starting all over again. Sometimes your just hoping: "Oh, give us a break! Can it be a bit more easier?" But I never thought about quitting.
Alex: Especially in the last decade, there seems to have been a wave of reunions: Black Sabbath with Ozzy in 2011, Led Zeppelin 2007 for one show, Judas Priest with Rob Halford in 2004. This bands are all giants of the rock scene. Where do you think did this reunion wave come from?
Calle: Where it came from? Maybe, I think, the crowd was asking for it? And when someone start and other people look: "Hey, let's bury the hatchet and get this band together again for one last time and see, if we can do it!" So I think someone starts it and the audience gets interested in it. Then the ball starts rolling and maybe if they didn't were such nice friends twenty years back, maybe they just can bury the hatchet and do it again. And of course they maybe earn some money! Maybe that's or some people important ...(laughs)
Alex: And what do you think about bands like the Scorpions or The Rolling Stones, that are disbanding every two or three years?
Calle: I don't know what to say about that ... they do their thing and I have to respect that. Actually I don't like the Rolling Stones. They suck! (laughs)
I think they are quite boring, but I still have a lot of respect for them. Still going with this music and doing their things ...
So, all my respect to the guys, but I really don't like their music. I've never done that. Maybe the early Scorpions, if you talk about Scorpions. They were quite good early in their career, but then it started with all the ballads and whistling ...
Alex: So, what's up next for the band?
Calle: We're rehearsing now for the German shows. We're really looking forward to the German tour! Then we have a lot of things coming up but I can't tell you now. It looks quite interesting! After Germany we're hopefully going to do a tour for two weeks. Then we're doing some boats and some festivals. Festivals are already coming in and the summer is booked. It looks really good actually! It will be a busy spring after Germany. Right now we're having some vacation.
Alex: Do you have any final words for all the fans out there?
Calle: I hope you come to our show and listen to the record before you come to our show. You wouldn't be disappointed if you come to see us live, that's a promise! And I hope we'll soon come back, after this tour is done. We definitely will, I can tell you, hopefully we come back in autumn for a following up. But we'll see, how this goes and what the management and booking agency think. But I'm hoping for it! As I've said, I love playing in Germany.
Moderation: Alexander Kipke

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